Geneva, 24 May 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – This year, the World Health Organization’s Sasakawa Health Prize recognized the work accomplished in the district of Iguaín in Peru, where the rate of anemia in children under the age of three fell from 65% to 12% over the past three years.
The Sasakawa Health Prize is awarded to one or more persons, institutions, or nongovernmental organizations that have achieved outstanding innovative work in health development. Such work includes the promotion of given heath programs or notable advances in primary health care.
The prize recognized the leadership of the former mayor of Iguaín, Eusebio Quispe Rodríguez, for implementing different measures to reduce anemia rates in that district.
“On behalf of Peru and especially the Andean and Amazon indigenous populations that are fighting chronic malnutrition and anemia, I am deeply grateful for this recognition of the former mayor of Iguaín,”said Normy Wieslawa De Pawlikowski, the Director-General of International Cooperation of Peru’s Ministry of Health when receiving the award at a ceremony held in conjunction with the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
She said that “the experience in the Iguaín community demonstrates the leadership of a government authority that is deeply concerned for the future of children and youth, a concern that is seconded by the people living there.” She added that anemia is cruel, and shortens lives and futures. Wieslawa De Pawlikowski stressed the importance of social participation in fighting the problem, and described how the Peruvian government is implementing a multisectoral strategy to combat anemia, which is headed by the nation’s President and has united all social sectors.
In 2015, Quispe Rodríguez created multisectoral technical teams comprised of local authorities, community leaders, staff of the health centers that are responsible for social programs, as well as teachers and parents.
These teams manage community surveillance centers and carry out home visits to raise awareness about basic sanitation, chronic infant malnutrition and anemia. They have introduced a food model created to reduce the high rate of anemia, and are teaching people to improve their diet by consuming locally grown products such as potatoes, quinoa and corn, supplemented by government-provided micronutrients.
The mayor’s office made plans for an irrigation project aimed at increasing agricultural productivity and ensuring improved nutrition for the community throughout the year.
The prize consists of a statue and a sum of money, which will be used for the irrigation project and to create and sustain more community surveillance centers.
This year, the Sasakawa Prize also recognized Professor Judith Ndongo Embola Torimiro from Cameroon, for her achievements related HIV/aids among other infectious diseases.